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Illinois Top Juniors Learn From Top GMs Print E-mail
By Andrea Rosen   
March 8, 2010
GM Amanov reviews a game with Rachel Ulrich, Lorenzo Barbin, Tommy Ulrich and others, Photo Andrea Rosen

About 25 talented chess players from throughout the Chicago metropolitan area are brimming with new knowledge after participating an intensive day of study on Sunday, Feb. 28, with three of Chicago's grandmasters.

The instructors included grandmasters Nikola Mitkov, Dmitry Gurevich and Mesgen Amanov, the state's second, third, and fourth ranked players respectively, who put together a day of lectures tailored to the students' needs. Students ranged in age from 6 to 17 and in rating from about 1150 to over 2200, and were divided by rating into three groups. The modest tuition fee covered about 60 percent of the cost for the day, and the ICA Warren Junior Program contributed the remainder.

The invitation-only seminar was open to all ICA Warren Scholars, as well as other students based on instructor recommendation or recent strong tournament performances. ICA Warren Scholars are generally ranked within the top 35 or better for their age group in the country. The seminar took place at Niles North High School, which recently won the state high school chess championship.

The seminar fits in with the Warren program mission of developing the talents of the state's most promising chess players, not only to make them more competitive in chess but also to expose them to an approach to rigorous study of a subject that will carry over to other disciplines later in life.

Many of the students who attended the seminar are academically gifted, and often don't feel  properly challenged or stimulated at school. "I like that at chess you have a lot of time to think. You can keep thinking and thinking and thinking until you get the answer," said 13-year-old  Warren Scholar Gavin McClanahan, a 7th grader from Glenview. "At school sometimes you have to rush--you might have a 20-minute timeframe to finish something, and it's not enough."

George (Zhaozhi) Li (left), and Nathan Kranjc, Photo Eric Rosen
Gurevich, Mitkov and Amanov all prepared material designed to challenge the students at the levels they were at. Amanov presented a 14-point checklist he designed to help players evaluate their position on the board, including basic concepts of piece development, controlling the center, and king safety, as well as more advanced concepts of identifying weaknesses and weak squares and the ability to exchange or trade pieces. Bill Peng, father of the newest and youngest Warren Scholar, 6-year old David Peng, said his son found Amanov's presentation very helpful. A few days after the seminar, he said, "My son and I have already used the checkpoints to analyze several games." At six, David has already attained a rating of more than 1300 and is ranked number 14 in the country for players under age 7.

Amanov, 23, a native of Turkmenistan, is Chicago's newest and youngest grandmaster. Earlier this month, he was happy to hear news that he has been issued a green card, giving him permanent U.S. residence status. This is good news for Chicago chess students as well, as Amanov may well be one of the few people in the U.S. whose college major was chess instruction. He is a graduate of the Turkmenistan Institute of Sport and Tourism, where chess is a serious college subject.

GM Mitkov reviews a game with, clockwise r to l: Conrad Oberhaus, Kenneth Martin and CJ Swan, Photo Andrea Rosen

Mitkov, a Macedonian native who has lived in Chicago for several years and teaches for Chicago-based Chess Education Partners, covered the important topic of initiative--creating threats and forcing the other side to react--and how to gain it. Mitkov explained that this includes making active moves that reduce the number of choices your opponent has to react, playing with tempo and creating pressure on an opponent's position. Below is one of the games he covered in his lecture:

What is the Initiative?

Taking initiative mean taking control of the game, creating threats and forcing your opponent to react. Initiative can be gained in several ways like:

  1. Making an active move that restricts the opponent's choice of reaction.
  2. Creating pressure on opponent's position
  3. Playing with tempo
The initiative of creating threatening moves cannot be maintained at all time in the game. Therefore it is important, that you use such an initiative to get a specific (static) advantage: material, mating attack, better pawn structure, open file, good endgame...etc. As initiative gives you advantage in play, your aim should be to gain and retain it. If retreating a piece means losing time, you can retain initiative by exchanging that piece. If you exchange your active piece with a passive opponent's piece, you lose time.  Sacrificing material is the most common way of creating an initiative.

Rules When You Have the Initiative 
  1. Don't try to win material too soon.
  2. Create multiple threats
  3. Don't move the same piece when you can use a different piece.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
The first critical moment for me. I had to decide what type of game I wanted. I decided to surprise him with the sharpest opening searching for initiative from the very beginning.
 4.f3 c5 5.d5 b5 6.e4 bxc4 7.Bxc4 Nxd5
8.exd5 Qh4+ 9.g3 Qxc4
8...exd5 9.Qxd5 Nc6 10.Be3 Rb8
Indirect, active defense. Using more pieces.
11.Rd1 0-0 12.Nge2 Ba6 13.Kf2
The second critical moment. Black has to look for initiative  (to lead the fight), because of his positional (static) weaknesses.
Opening the b-file for the Rook, and releasing the b4 square for the Knight.
14.Bxc5 Rxb2 15.Rd2 Bc4; 14.Bg5 Qb6 15.b3 c4+ 16.Be3 Qd8
14...Nb4 15.Qf5 Nd3+ 16.Kg3 Bc7+
The bishop finished the job on that diagonal, so he needs to go on the other side to chase the king.
17.f4 Rb6
Bringing more pieces and creating more threats.
18.Nd5 Re6
Pressing the e4 pawn. The alternative is 18...g6 19.Qh3 Re8 20.Nec3 Rbe6 21.Rd2 Rxe4 22.Nxe4 Rxe4 23.Kf3 f5.
19.Nxc7 Qxc7 20.Nc3 Qa5 21.Bd2 Bb7 22.h4 Qa6 23.Rdf1 Rfe8 24.h5 Qd6 25.Rh3 Nb4
25...Rf6 26.Qg5 h6 27.Qh4 Bxe4 28.Kh2 Bf5
26.Bc1 Nxa2 27.Nxa2 Bxe4 28.Qg4 Qd3+ 29.Kf2 Qc2+ 30.Kg1 Bf5 31.Qd1 Qxa2 32.Rg3 Qe2
Here is where I decided to go for a position without risk. From initiative to material advantage with no risk. From the 10th move until the end Black was leading the fight. Every single move creating problems or adding piece that can create problems in the next move(s). 0-1

Kenneth Martin, Oliver Natarajan, Caeley Harihara and Jack Xiao take notes during GM Amanov's lecture, Photo Andrea Rosen

The students said they found the presentation extremely worthwhile, and fellow instructor Gurevich was also impressed. "I wish I didn't have to teach so I could have attended his lecture," he said. Gurevich, who was born and raised in Moscow but has lived in Chicago for more than two decades, gave presentations to the middle and top groups. For the middle group, he focused on the eternal struggle between the knight and the bishop, analyzed several examples of good knights versus bad knights, and reviewed some unusual tactical positions. He spent his time with the top group analyzing a complex endgame involving lots of calculations, and introduced some examples of miscalculations and blunders. "I tried to explain what types of mistakes GMs are making," he said. "Hopefully they got an impression that we are not that far ahead!"

Below is an example of a Gurevich lesson on pattern recognition:

Zapata,Alonso - Polgar,J [B80]

34.b3 I witnessed this game during the 1989 New York Open. At the time, it was shocking that a 12-year-old girl managed to beat a Grandmaster! Can you figure out what Judit played here?

Show Solution

Pangan,C - Gurevich,D [B07]

Chicago, 1991

Diagram position after 24.Rf1?

Two years later in Chicago Chess Center I was able to repeat ' Polgar combination". Camilo Pangan had crushed me the day before and I came back for revenge :)) He just played 24.Rf1? Can you figure out my move?

Show Solution

The seminar was timed so the K8 students could prepare for the upcoming Illinois K8 elementary championship, which will be held the weekend of March 13-14 in St. Charles, and some of the high school students and girls could prepare for the upcoming Illinois Denker high school qualifier and girls invitational tournaments, which will both begin on March 19.

A visitor to the seminar, Jerry Neugarten, who chairs the ICA's newly established youth committee, commented on how impressed he was to see students as young as grade-school age sitting in rapt attention for presentations lasting up to two hours. "I've been coaching kids for 15 years," Jerry said, "and I've never seen lessons of this quality. The coaches demanded deep and sustained concentration from the kids, and got it."

The ICA Warren Scholar program relies on the generous support of contributors. For more information about the program, visit www.il-chess.org


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